The Brazilian Heath Service will provide free treatment for AIDS sufferers and use early preventive measures to avoid third-party contagion. Over 100,000 sufferers will therefore be examined and start treatment before the end of the year. 313,000 AIDS sufferers are already being treated by Social Services.
“The new strategy places us at the head of the battle against AIDS”, states the Minister for Health Alexandre Padilha. Until now the only countries to have carried forward a similar policy have been France and the US. The drug in question, nick-named “three in one “is a combination of tenofovir, lamivudine and efavirenz, a mix which is still awaiting authorisation by the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa). As soon as the drug is approved, it will be offered and used in the treatment of AIDS patients.
This decision is a turnaround in the history of public health. Right from the first dose of the antiretroviral, levels of the virus in the body are reduced significantly, thus reducing the chances of contamination of third parties in the event of sexual relations with a condom. Early treatment provided by the Brazilian government also aims at increasing protection of patients infected with AIDS.
María Clara Gianna, coordinator of the sexually transmitted disease programme in the state of Sao Paolo, admits that the project “does not prevent transmission”, but “reduces it” considerably, and can be considered a great step forwards.
The government does not yet know what the economic impact of this project could be. For the moment, from a forecast budget of 600 million dollars put aside for the battle against AIDS, 330 million have been earmarked for medicines.
Brazil has always been at the cutting edge of the battle against AIDS. During the government of the former president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the then Minister for Health, José Serra, was able to offer AIDS sufferers a free cocktail of medicine, which earned him an award from the World Health Organisation (WHO).